Alarmed by the plight of millions of Kurdish refugees fleeing from Iraq, a group of Harvard students have formed an organization to push the issue to the forefront of campus and national consciousness.
The group, dubbed Harvard Against Repression of the Kurds (HARK), began meeting last Wednesday in reaction to recent reports detailing the horrors of the Kurdish exodus from Iraq. Millions of Kurds are streaming into neighboring Iran and Turkey in search of food and shelter and a safe haven from the brutal civil war that is tearing apart the country.
"I can't imagine anything more pressing right now," said Jack S. Levy '92, vice president of the organization. "One and a half million to 2 million refugees are amassed at the Iraqi border right now. There's complete pandemonium there."
In a press release to be issued soon HARK declares that the suffering of the Kurds is "a moral crisis for all humankind, and that the world community must extend aid to the Kurdish refugees."
"We're talking about parents waking up and burying their children," said Allan S. Galper '93, who is the president of the group. "The Kurds are facing dehydration and starvation. They just don't have the bare necessities to survive." Galper is also an editor of The Crimson.
Members of the group interviewed yesterday emphasized that HARK would limit its agenda to humanitarian aid and avoid political posturing.
They said they felt that by avoiding political issues such as Kurdish nationalism and U.S. military intervention, HARK can generate the "broadest support base possible."
"We're trying to keep this as apolitical as possible," said HARK member Hugh C. Cleland '92. "It's a simple appeal--a humanitarian one."
"We don't advocate any political agenda," said HARK treasurer Thomas J. Page '93. "The purpose of our organization is simply to keep the Kurds alive, to feed them, clothe them and to keep them safe."
Galper said HARK will soon solicit faculty and student signatures for letters asking the Bush Administration to increase humanitarian aid to the Kurds. HARK volunteers began the drive by tabling at various houses last night.
Galper added that the group intends to fax copies of the letters to various newspapers.
"I think this is newsworthy enough by the very fact that students and intellectuals are coming together on an issue like this," Galper said.
HARK also plans to collect student donations for the Red Cross Kurdish relief fund and to sponsor teach-ins later this week, Galper said.
Members realize that HARK will be a "very short term organization" since there are only a few weeks left before final exams, Levy said. "I hope we become obsolete soon. Hopefully next fall HARK won't be necessary anymore," he said.
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III recognized HARK as an official student group yesterday morning. Dillon Professor of International Affairs Joseph S. Nye and Kurdish graduate student Mehrdad Ezady will advise the organization.